Okanagan Corporate Retreats: Off-site, on Target


See how corporate retreats build teams, bolster profits and benefit the Okanagan

Hiking through a midnight vineyard with the pale yellow beam of a headlamp as the only light on your group’s path — or collaborating with workmates on a blind wine tasting… If this sounds too frivolous to be part of your workday, think again. These are just two of the hot activities designed to enhance teamwork, goal setting and skill building at corporate retreats in the Okanagan.

okanagan-corporate-retreat-hoodoo-adenturesWhile many harmony-boosting initiatives were placed on hold after the Wall Street meltdown in 2008, they are now reappearing on the corporate agenda. In an online article in the popular business blog Business 2 Community, contributor Sachin Basal outlines several benefits of corporate retreats. “People may work together for years in an organization. But as soon as they go off-site to have fun, new and everlasting bonds are built. Due to relationships built on retreat, people move in the same direction and start working to achieve the same goals and objectives. After a retreat, not only business relationships but also personal feelings come into play while working in the office.”

“The most common objective of our clients is to get to know each other and have some fun outside the office walls,” says Lyndie Hill, CEO of Penticton’s Hoodoo Adventures. “People seem to see the value in a fun, shared experience these days.

Meeting Trends 2014

Budget controls: A key trend in 2014 is for meetings to be held closer to home as companies search for ways to control costs and reduce time away from the office.Sense of place: Participants want to get a feel for the destination—even if it’s close to home. The 2014 American Express Meetings & Events Forecast confirmed a trend among planners to get out of generic meeting rooms and set at least part of their event in non-traditional venues such as museums, event centres, universities and wineries.

Outdoor elements: Meeting organizers are certainly looking to nature for team building exercises, but outdoor venues will play an increasing role in core business activities as well. Don’t be surprised to find corporate groups brainstorming on the beach.

Topical meals: Look for food and beverage selections that reflect the theme of the event or the special characteristics of the meeting location. Meals can be seen as events in themselves, used to create a memorable experience.

Social media and mobile apps: More and more, meeting planners are using new media and technology to communicate with and connect participants and to create opportunities for increased engagement and efficiency—before, during and after the event. —Laurie Carter

“It’s not all work, work, work. TV-themed events like Amazing Race, Survivor and Iron Chef are a fantastic way to bring a corporate team closer together. And it’s not all management. We seem to get a mix from the whole company.”

Community Living BC gave it a try. “Most of the people in our office are active,” says Christina Banman, “so I chose the Survivor Challenge to pique people’s interest.” Events like Quick Sand, where tribes use the equipment provided to survive the sinking sand, are designed to enable participants to use their individual strengths to reach a common objective. Although Christina also went with a half-day indoors for the less active members of the group, she says everyone enjoyed the outside activities as well. “I liked that Hoodoo taught the skills of working together through fun and games rather than a lecture.”

Most retreats last from two to five days and combine business with team spirit enhancing events. Kal Tire, for example, does not typically leave the Okanagan for senior management meetings, but does take the team off-site—though not always outside of Vernon. Usually scheduled for two days, the retreats are held at a resort or other location and combine high-level meetings with social or collaborative activities. “I have seen ATV riding, golfing and cycling,” says Krystal Akerman, executive assistant to the company’s president.

Celebrating 30 Years

The great part about anniversaries is taking time to reflect. Delving into our magazine archives, we once again came face to face with the passionate people who strengthen our communities and the creative artists who fill the Valley with art, song and laughter.